Bengaluru: The Karnataka Congress has questioned the Election Commission’s decision to put on hold the state government’s flagship farm loan waiver scheme.
Karnataka state election commissioner Sanjeev Kumar had told the media that since the scheme entails cash transfer to beneficiaries, it could “sway voters weeks before polling” and so was being put on hold till the elections are over.
“If payment has already been given, that’s alright, but no new payments can take place,” Kumar said. “It is a general thing. Even the central government’s (PM-KISAN) scheme, in which Rs 6,000 is disbursed, has been stopped.”
The Congress, however, Friday said there was no need for such a decision as the scheme is an ongoing project.
“The loan waiver in Karnataka is a budgeted scheme that is being implemented for close to a year. Now, as far as my knowledge goes, neither the People’s Representative Act nor the Election Model Code of Conduct rules say that any ongoing scheme should be stopped during the election process,” senior Congress leader V.S. Ugrappa said.
“Modi’s Rs 6,000 scheme was to be implemented from 1 April. Which is why stopping it makes sense. But why stop an ongoing scheme? It shows that there is a hidden hand behind the EC’s decision. People will know the truth.”
The Congress-JD(S) coalition government had been banking on the loan waiver scheme to sway voters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Will have no effect on poll prospects: JD(S)
The JD(S), however, is confident that the EC decision will have no effect on its Lok Sabha poll prospects.
“Stalling the scheme for nearly three months will have no effect on the trust that people have in us,” Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said.
A senior official in the chief minister’s office said the government has made sure that a large number of farmers have already benefitted.
“Till date, nearly 50 per cent of the loans have been waived. There will be a slight delay in the second half but people know that we are committed to helping farmers in distress,” the official, who did not want to be named, said.
“We will follow the EC rules but we are sure that people have understood that the Kumaraswamy-led government is committed to fulfilling all its promises.”
The chief minister had announced the loan waiver scheme soon after coming to power, promising to waive loans to the tune of Rs 46,000 crore. It is expected to benefit 20.38 lakh farmers.
Kumaraswamy had promised to waive loans of up to Rs 1 lakh that farmers had borrowed from cooperative banks and up to Rs 2 lakh in case of commercial banks.
According to officials involved in the programme, the state government is expected to spend close to Rs 9,448.68 crore. So far, nearly 16.76 lakh farmers have provided the necessary documentation to avail of the waiver.
A different tale on the ground
Farmers on the ground, however, dispute the government figures that at least 50 per cent of them have already benefitted from the scheme.
Kurubur Shanthakumar, president of the Karnataka Sugarcane Cultivators Association, said farmers had become pawns for political parties and were only being remembered during elections.
“The loan waiver has only reached 15 per cent of the farmers and their claims that they have reached out to over half of us is a lie,” Shanthakumar said. “Their (Congress and JDS) false promises will have an impact on this election. People know the truth and they will vote accordingly. Our farmers are upset and they will show them when it is time to vote.”
Amid the disputed numbers, analysts say that the Congress-JD(S) coalition will only benefit if it has covered the number of farmers that it claims to have.
“If they have been sincere in their approach and plan then the delay in the scheme will be understood by the people,” political analyst A. Narayana of the Azim Premji University told ThePrint.
“If they have done as much as they claim they have, there should be no political implication. But if there is a huge chasm between the promise and the implementation, then the Congress and the JD(S) have a big problem.”